To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.
- Emily Dickinson
I just received a new book from Amazon in the mail yesterday (I know, I know - I need another book like I need a hole in my head): Educating for Wisdom and Compassion: Creating Conditions for Timeless Learning by John (Jack) Miller. I am totally thrilled about it for several reasons. First, because it is so spot on. Second, because it is hands-on useful. Third, because it has some of the most beautifully perfect information to help back up my thesis!
Thank you, thank you, to my dear friend, Debbie, for turning me onto it!!!
Here's a quip:
When it comes to defining time, only the oceanic need apply - the Montaignes or Joyces, Shakespeares or Rousseaus, eastern philosophers or children. They know their now, they know the really wild vibe of the present is this: now is the only time when the moment can meet the eternal - and they know that moment is momentous (Griffiths, 1999, p. 36) (Miller, 2006, p. 4).
The "momentous" can simply be an ordinary moment made extraordinary by perspective, by just being truly present in that moment.
At the beginning of the school year, I give all of my students a brown paper "Welcome Bag" filled with all kinds of things, i.e. candy, play-doh, etc. that serve as symbols - reminders - as to what I'd like them to keep in mind throughout the school year. With the bag, I give them a "key" that explains what each item represents. One of the items in the bag is a highlighter marker. This is to remind my students to see the extraordinary in the ordinary - to note the highlights, regardless if they are big or small, wild and wonderful or plain and simple.
A classroom adage I use with my students is "Look down at your feet." Whenever a student starts asking about something that we might be doing, or might take place in the future (even if the future is that afternoon), and it has nothing to do with what we are doing or what we are talking about, I ask him/her to look down at his/her feet. This is a reminder to "be here now," to stay present for this moment.
Miller says, "In the timeless learning our experience becomes much more immediate. We are not thinking of the past or the future" (Miller, 2006, p. 4).
So when Dickinson wrote "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else," I believe she meant that if we are truly awake to the moment, all we can do is be in that moment - live that moment, and that moment only. There's no room - no time - for the moment before or for the next moment, because the present moment takes all of our time, all of our attention.
And how do we get that? How do we live? From moment to moment. From practice to practice. By using ritual as a pathway.